May The Force Be With Your Brand!
The most anticipated movie of the year, Star Wars – The Force Awakens, is set to hit cinemas on the 17th December 2015. This will be the 7th movie in one of the most epic and profitable movie franchises in World history. The first three movies (Star Wars 4-6) were released from 1977 to 1983 with the next three movies (Star Wars 1-3) being released 1999 to 2005. And now after a 10 year wait – and a sale of the franchise for $4 billion to Disney – Star Wars is back!
The Star Wars franchise is estimated to have made $28 billion in revenue when including box office, DVDs, merchandise, toys, computer games, etc. Furthermore, it has influenced pop culture for four decades and even inspired its own religion Jediism (no kidding!).
But what can Brands learn from Star Wars?
As a fanatic Star Wars fan, I have produced six learnings brands can take from the Start Wars movies – one from each of the movies released to date.
SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FIRST SIX MOVIES AND INTEND TO DO SO, PLEASE STOP READING NOW.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his young apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi come across an exceptionally talented 9 year old slave boy, Anakin Skywalker, at the distant Tattoine planet. Qui-Gon believes Anakin is the “Chosen One” and in spite of strong resistance from Yoda and the Jedi Council, Obi-Wan ends up taking Anakin on as his apprentice and training him to become a Jedi. In episodes II and III, we see Anakin’s potential for becoming the strongest Jedi ever – that is until he breaks the learning from Episode III later in this blog.
Learning I: If you see a strong and unique opportunity, don’t give up in spite of initial resistance
Good analytical skills help business people and marketeers identify unique opportunities in the market place. This can be for a new product, a new technology or a new occasion for an existing product. But often these ideas are initially met by resistance internally, e.g. “this has already been done and failed”, “we don’t have resources for this” or “it will take share from our existing products”. Organisations and people within organisations do not always like change. Here it is vital that you believe in yourself and your idea and build a strong case for why your idea is worth pursuing!
In this episode we see the lightsaber and fighting skills of Yoda in full action. Yoda is the smallest Jedi, talks funny and walks with a cane. But don’t let this deceive you! Obi-Wan and Anakin are struggling to beat powerful Count Dooku in a lightsaber battle but when Yoda arrives this all changes. The cane-walking Yoda turns into a super athletic, jumping (almost flying) lightsaber master, forcing Count Dooku to flee.
Learning II: Don’t underestimate smaller niche brands
It is important for big brands to closely monitor the market place, including the activities of smaller niche brands. These brands might have low share today but might also have relative strengths which will become more important tomorrow. So you need to keep a watchful eye on the small guys in your market!
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
In perhaps the saddest movie in the franchise, we see Anakin Skywalker being seduced by evil Sith Lord Darth Sidious and the dark side of the force. Anakin, once the promise of peace and prosperity in the Galaxy, gives up on becoming a Jedi to become Sith Lord Darth Vader. He pays a high price for this! After an epic lightsaber battle with Obi-Wan Keonobi, Anakin is left dismembered and is forced to live the rest of his life in a respiratory suit. His wife dies during childbirth and his two children Luke and Leia are taken into hiding from him.
Learning III: Stay loyal to your brand DNA
While brands do change over time (and should), we should avoid dramatic shifts in what our brand fundamentally is and stands for. Such shifts can damage the credibility of your brand, alienate your key target group, and potentially lead to significant loss of market share. For example, if you are the more expensive but higher quality brand in the market, suddenly lowering your prices below all competitors will make consumers question what you have done to the brand’s quality to make this happen.
Episode IV: A New Hope
So Darth Vader is in full control of the Galaxy. The Rebel Alliance is weak and the Galactic Empire has a new powerful weapon, the Death Star. This “Death Star” has the ability to destroy entire planets within seconds with a simple but very destructive laser beam. But the Death Star was built with one small but very critical construction error. One shot through one specific exhaust port which happens to be connected to the main reactor has the potential to destroy the entire Death Star! And of course, this is exactly what happens.
Learning IV: Know your brand’s weaknesses
Even the biggest and strongest brands have weaknesses. These weaknesses make them vulnerable to competitor activities whether this is communications or new product initiatives. So, make sure that you do not only know the strengths but also the weaknesses of your brand. You don’t want competitors to destroy your brand with a single shot!
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The end of episode V sees our hero Han Solo being frozen in a block of carbonite to be delivered to Jabba the Hutt who has a bounty on Han Solo’s head. While Han Solo is a bit of a bother, all of the other good guys escape from the Evil Empire flying away in the Millennium Falcon in the movies’ closing shot. So why did Han Solo have to stay behind while the movie had a (somewhat) happy ending for everybody else? In fact, the original movie script never intended this fate for Han Solo. But Harrison Ford who played Han Solo was getting increasingly tired of this role and it was doubtful whether he would agree to take part in yet another Star Wars movie. THE SOLUTION: Let’s freeze him in carbonate and we can either revive him or kill him in the beginning of the next movie.
Learning V: Have contingency plans in place for unexpected events
All successful brand knows the art of planning ahead. Plan for the expected scenario and the best and worst case scenarios. This will help you avoid unpleasant surprises and ensure that your actions are based on analytics and market knowledge rather than being panic solutions.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
In spite of its best effort, the Rebel Alliance comes up short in its fight against the evil empire. Han Solo, Princess Leia and all the other good guys are captured by Imperial forces at the forest moon of Endor while Luke is with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. But luckily for the Rebel Alliance, they have gained the trust of the indigenous Ewoks on the forest moon prior to their capture. The Ewoks engineer a surprise attack on the captors, setting in to motion events that ultimately lead to the end of the Galatic Empire. Well, at least until Episode VII.
Learning VI: Be open to strategic alliances
Your organisation and brand might not have all the skills required to compete effectively in the market. In these cases, a strategic alliance might be the answer – two or more parties coming together to create stronger propositions that they can do individually.